Sant Rampal episode
Media upbraids Haryana, Court praises it
The non-bailable warrants issued against the self-proclaimed Sant Rampal of Hissar and his defiance of the court and the Haryana police made great headlines. Ultimately, the Punjab & Haryana High Court directed the police to arrest him and present him in court on November 21.
The continued defiance of the police and the court in refusal to surrender before the law of the land was generated into a great media hype. Rampal collected about 20-25 thousand of his supporters -- men, women and chikdreb -- to use them as a human shield to frustrate the attempt of the police to lay their hands on him. His touted blind followers seemed more defiant than the sant himself. They declared him innocent and vowed that they would not allow police to arrest him. Even a story was floated that Rampal wss ill, was not in the ashram and was getting medical treatment elsewhere. He will surrender, they said, when he is medically fit. But Haryana Director-General of Police was insistent throughout declaring that Rampal was very much present in the premises directing the defiance and resistance to police attempts by his followers.
The Haryana police adopted a very sympathetic attitude. It did make a show of force but did not use it. They implored both Rampal and his followers to surrender and not hinder the process of law. They repeatedly announced the followers to leave the ashram and promisds all help and no harassment. To counter the police action the ashram authorities floated the news that six persons had died in the police action. They claimed that four bodies of women were lying in the Ashram gates and two persons died when taken to hospital. The cause of death is yet to be ascertained.
The ashram security felt emboldened to the humanitarian attitude of the police which looked very docile and weak to them abd the media. There was firing from inside the ashram injuring numerous police men and officers. Petrol bombs two were thrown at the police. Pelting of stones was also indulged in. The media, particularly the electronic one, created a great story; every other national and international news was relegated to insignificance. They devoted all their coverage to Hissar operation. In comments after comments, in live media coverage and in channel discussions the only point highlighted was the ‘complete failure of Madi’s handpicked RSS man and his favourite, Manoharlal Khattar, as the new Haryana CM who had no experience as administration as he is a first-time MLA’. They were quick in declaring that Khattar had failed in his first test as CM. The plea of Haryana police that they could not stake the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children in their anxiety to lay hands on Rampal, fell on media deaf ears.
The only weak link in Haryana police’s armoury of defence was the violence it leashed at some media men covering the Rampal operation. The Haryana government and the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh regretted the incident and ordered inquiry.
Had the Haryana police thoughtlessly and mercilessly mounted its operation in the ashram, it could have put the innocent lives in the ashram, according to allegations, were held as hostages to be used as human chain of defence against police. In that eventuality the media would have changed the tack to blame the police being atrocious and brutal against unarmed innocent human beings who were there just devoted followers of Rampal.
Finally, when Rampal was nabbed and produced before the High Court, some of these very media channels reported that the court had a word of praise for the way the whole operations was conducted and was successful.
The moral of the story remains that no one, least of all, the media should be hasty in coming out with their momentary comments and opinions at the cost of their credibility.
The writer is a Delhi based political analyst e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org